Jeffrey Katzenberg is the former COO of Disney and the brains behind movies like Shrek and other blockbusters. Together with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen he owns Dreamworks SKG.
3 years ago I was in LA at a LA Lakers basketball game and I was sitting behind Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel (who were sitting courtside) and I noticed that Jeffrey Katzenberg sat next to Justin. I knew him because we studied his career in my MBA program.
The next day I was having lunch on Main Street in Santa Monica and who walks past by me? Jeffrey Katzenberg.
I remeber telling my friend Andrew “Hey, that’s Jeffrey Katzenberg! I saw him yesterday at the Lakers game”.
The day after that I was having dinner at an Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills and guess who sat at the table next to me…? Exactly! Jeffrey.
3 days in a row in a city of millions. What are the chances? I decided to talk to him.
Me: “Hey Mr Katzenberg, I have seen you 3 times in 3 days and so it’s time I introduce myself.”
Jeffrey: “Oh yeah, where did you see me?”
Me: “Lakers on saturday, yesterday in Santa Monica and now here”
Jeffrey: “haha! That’s right! Nice to meet you, what’s your name?”
We took it from there and we started to get to know each other. We talked about coaching and he handed me his personal business cared and apologised for being rude. He told me about all the “crazy” people that approach him every day and that he has to be carefull. When we left he invited me to visit him at the studios 2 days later.
I couldn’t make that because I was leaving for Europe the day after. We talked once more over the phone and after a failed meeting in Dusseldorf 2 months later the communication stopped.
Here’s the point: never put people on a pedestal. Nobody is served when you put them above you or below you. People want to connect. It doesn’t matter if it’s a famous guy like Jeffrey or your new neighbour. People want to genuinely connect.
From my work with high profile people I have learned that this is a group that feels very lonely. The more succes you have the less people are willing to tell you what you really need to hear. They stop growing. People kiss up and want things from you. You start to distrust the world.
It gets very lonely at the top.